Amplifying Community Voices at the Philadelphia Parents Summit 2024 

Last weekend, the city of Philadelphia was buzzing with powerful energy and words like “parental empowerment,” “student advocacy,” “community solidarity,” and “igniting joy.” It all came from the annual Philly Parents Summit at the School District of Philadelphia, which gathered local parents and caregivers for a day of speakers, workshops, exhibits, and connections. The theme for the 2024 event was “Igniting Joy” — a sentiment evident in the activities and conversations throughout the day.

215 People's Alliance Group The summit was co-hosted by a coalition of public education advocacy organizations in Philadelphia, including Our City Our Schools, Parents United for Public Education, the Philadelphia Home and School Council, the West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools, and El Comité de Trabajadorxs de Restaurantes. The Penn State Center Philadelphia co-sponsored the event, and the team helped to ensure the day was inclusive and impactful for all attendees.

“This event was a testament to the strength and resilience of families in our city,” said Kristen Goessling, director of participatory research at Penn State Center Philadelphia. “We witnessed a strong partnership between families, organizers, and educators to showcase their unwavering commitment to the well-being and educational success of young people.”

The summit was a vibrant collection of workshops, panel discussions, resource tables, and interactive sessions, each designed to empower parents with the tools and knowledge needed to advocate for their children effectively. Topics ranged from navigating the educational system to promoting socio-emotional well-being, reflecting the diverse needs and interests of the community. 

Workshops included:  

  • How To Create a Healthy Appetite for Math
  • Why I believe Africana Studies Can Save the World and Education
  • Supporting Immigrant Families discussion circle
  • Let’s Read Math for Children & Families
  • Yoga/Grounding
  • What’s going well? Creative Centering Practices for Caregivers
  • School Safety/Bullying Discussion Circle
  • Supporting LGBTQ Families
  • Collaboration Between Schools And Families
  • All Around this World

Goals for the day:

  • Expand our shared knowledge by educating and empowering parents
  • Share ideas and build solidarity across neighborhoods, languages, backgrounds, school models, and passions
  • Create a sustainable network of parents and community dedicated to the transformation of our schools
  • Cultivate a space of joy, rest, safety, and healing

Workshop at Parents SummitA main focus of the event from planning stages to day-of happenings was ensuring all parent and caregiver voices were heard, to break down barriers and create meaningful dialogue. Inclusivity was essential for the event and continues to be essential in collaborations for the collective good of students and communities. To help support this, the team at Penn State Center Philadelphia worked closely with El Comite to provide bilingual materials and presentations for the event, ensuring all aspects were accessible to all populations. Sessions were conducted in English and Spanish, and translation devices were available for attendees.

“Language justice is core to our values at the Center” said Carly Pourzand, director of community-driven impact at the Penn State Center Philadelphia.

Some of the standout moments of the summit were the keynote addresses by Maritza Guridy and Ismael Jimenez, two advocates for education in Philadelphia. Guridy, founder/CEO at M.Guridy Consulting LLC, delivered the opening keynote for the summit and also hosted the workshop on Collaboration Between Schools and Families. During her keynote she discussed the collaborative work of the summit planning committee and reinforced the importance of the summit as a unique space where parents, families, educators, mentors, leaders, and education organizers connect, learn, and grow together. 

The lunchtime keynote was given by Ismael Jimenez, director of social studies curriculum at School District of Philadelphia, who also presented a session on Why I Believe Africana Studies Can Save the World and Education. In his keynote address, Jimenez wove his perspective as a father of four, educator, district leader, and racial justice advocate to amplify the need and value of radical dreaming for collective liberation.  

The team at the Penn State Center Philadelphia also brought new audiences to the summit. Goessling led a cohort of academic researchers and professionals to the event, who were attending the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting, also taking place in Philadelphia at the same time. About 30 members of the AERA special interest group (SIG), Grassroots Community and Youth Organizing for Educational Justice, visited with parent leaders and were able to witness firsthand the transformative work being done by parents and families in the Philadelphia area. 

This model of bringing together academic research with grassroots activism and community members reflects the participatory approach undergirding the Penn State Center Philadelphia’s work. At this event, academics were able to connect with parents and gain valuable insights and open dialogues that will undoubtedly inform their future research and advocacy efforts.  

Throughout the event, there was a deep sense of solidarity and camaraderie among attendees. Parents from all walks of life came together to share their stories, learn from one another, and look forward to a brighter future for their children. 

“The Parent Summit this year reminded us of the transformative power of community,” said Pourzand. “Our team is proud to have been a part of this momentous event and we hope we can work together to continue supporting parents and families in their journey toward educational equity and social justice.”